Banner of Truth, August - September 2008
A fascinating account out of the Great Awakening, this volume contains a description of enormous courage. Much of Charles Wesley’s preaching was conducted in scenes of violent hostility. There were times when as many arrived at Methodist meetings to persecute savagely as came to hear the gospel. Stones, eggs and clods of dirt were hurled at him during open air preaching.
Methodist Society halls were literally torn down and Methodists beaten as he preached within their walls. Often local authorities refused to protect Methodist preachers or their hearers. Charles’ bearing under outrageous attacks deserves attention.
It seemed that there were as many controversies among the Methodists as there were external threats. Many are aware that both John and Charles saw Calvinism as poison and firmly stood as Arminians. Only with great effort was their friendship with George Whitefield kept civil.
John and Charles themselves had disagreements over the Methodist doctrine of perfectionism. They clashed in their views of lay preachers and continuation in the Church of England. The brothers’ partnership in the gospel was strained to the limit in these matters, but endured for 50 years.
Charles has received less attention from Methodists of later years because the movement strongly followed John’s views on the above matters. In addition Methodist sensibilities regarding propriety were offended by Charles’ encouragement of his sons, Charles, Junior, and Samuel. Both were musical prodigies. Charles, Junior, played for King George III at the Royal Court of St James’s, beginning when he was only 18 years old. Their father began to move amongst wellknown society figures, men like Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and William Wilberforce. Though he was faithful to the truth in these relationships, Charles met with withering disapproval from those he served in Methodism.
All who are interested in following such strands of Methodist history will do well to read John R. Tyson’s sympathetic biography of Charles Wesley. It was Tyson’s opinion that John was the head of Methodism while Charles was its heart.
WALTER J. CHANTRY